Lost Change… and Found Knowledge

lost change

Mapping Coins from the Portable Antiquities Scheme

Flustering to count your change you drop your pound coin and watch it roll into the nearby drain just as your bus turns the corner onto your road.How annoying! Imagine just how many times in history loose change has been clumsily dropped from purses, carelessly left on the pavement after it falls, or confidently thrown into wishing wells and water features. Well now, thanks to the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS), you don’t have to imagine – you can see it for yourself on a new online, interactive map!

The recently launched Lost Change provides an innovative way for anyone who is interested in the lost change of England’s past, to explore the huge database of 300,000 coins reported to the PAS in an accessible, engaging and visual way. It allows people to discover for themselves the links between the quantities of coins found and reported, along with their place of origin and place of detection in relation to different time periods.PAS lost change

Though there are some biases when it comes to the distribution of coins shown on the map mainly relating to the prevalence and acceptability of metal detecting in area, as well as soil type and land use. Also locational data cannot always be published by the PAS in the interest of protecting sites from nighthawking and other prohibited activity. In the PAS database object’s locations are only pinpointed to an Ordnance Survey four-figure National Grid Reference (which is a 1km square), and only with the permission of the landowner or finder.

The beauty of Lost Change lies in its simplicity. The website is uncomplicated, kept at the minimum needed to display its information effectively – and this really works. It can be navigated by anyone, archaeologist or not. And even if you have a less than average knowledge of numismatics you will find yourself making interpretations of the data and what it tells us about the use of coins through the history of Britain – whether it be their popularity, the geographical factors that influenced their use, or what they can teach us about foreign contact in the different time periods.

The PAS hopes to build on the project soon, it just needs some further funding – though with all that money on the map you think they’d have enough by now!

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Written by Aisling Serrant

An all round museum educator and enthusiast, Aisling's the Family Festival Coordinator at the Museum of London Docklands.

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